Notre Dame Football: Marc Tyler

Week 12: Nov. 24 at USC (at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles)

Time/TV: TBD, ABC or ESPN

Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 43-35-5

2011 record: 10-2 (7-2 Pac-12; first, South Division)

Head coach: Lane Kiffin (18-7, two years)

Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Matt Barkley, RB Curtis McNeal, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, OL Khaled Holmes, DL Devon Kennard, DL Wes Horton, LB Dion Bailey, LB Hayes Pullard, CB Nickell Robey, S T.J. McDonald, K Andre Heidari

Key losses

RB Marc Tyler, FB Rhett Ellison, WR Brandon Carswell, OL Matt Kalil, DL Nick Perry, DL DaJohn Harris, DL Christian Tupou, LB Chris Galippo, LS Chris Pousson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Curtis McNeal* (1,005 yards)

Passing: Matt Barkley* (3,528 yards)

Receiving: Robert Woods* (1,292 yards)

Tackles: Dion Bailey*, Hayes Pullard* (81)

Sacks: Nick Perry (9.5)

Interceptions: T.J. McDonald* (3)

Three questions for ... Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller:

So let me get this straight: USC returns 17 starters from a 10-2 team, including the Heisman frontrunner at quarterback. Where are the weaknesses with the 2012 Trojans?



Ted Miller: Officially, it's 19 starters -- don't forget both specialists! -- but who's counting? The only position that gets hit by attrition is the defensive line, which loses three starters. If you were to try and peg one area where the Trojans lack certainty, it would be the D-line, though it's worth noting there's plenty of talent up front. In general, the most notable area where USC could run into trouble is depth. The starting 24 -- including both specialists -- looks like the best collection of starters in the nation. But a couple of injuries could give the Trojans problems.

The 2011 season and this year's recruiting push has been remarkable, especially given the program's limitations in the wake of NCAA sanctions. How has Lane Kiffin done it?



TM: Well, Kiffin is selling a pretty good product: An elite football power in the middle of L.A. While Kiffin has been heavily criticized through the years -- and not without justification -- there are plenty of people who will tell you he's a good coach and a smart guy. There has to be a reason that USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders gave him opportunities when he was so young and unproven. Further, USC has resources, and that allowed Kiffin to hire a very good staff, including his dad Monte Kiffin, a defensive coaching legend, and recruiting savant Ed Orgeron. All this said: Let's keep in mind that Kiffin hasn't captured any big prizes yet. Yes, the recruiting has been outstanding and seems to be rising to another level. Yes, last year's Top-5 finish was impressive with no postseason to motivate players. But let's see him win the conference and a national title before we crown him.

Putting you on the spot here: Does USC enter its clash with Notre Dame undefeated, and are the Trojans winning it all this year?



TM: The big date on USC's schedule is a Nov. 3 visit from Oregon. That could be a battle of undefeated teams with the winner setting itself up for the national title game. Because that game is in L.A., I believe the Trojans will prevail. I think the odds, therefore, are decent the Irish square off in the Coliseum on Nov. 24 with an undefeated team eyeballing the national title game. Talk about a spoiler opportunity. But -- and this is a big "but" -- going undefeated is extremely difficult, even when a team is better than everyone on its schedule. Under Pete Carroll, USC was notorious for blowing one game a season. USC's schedule isn't brutal, but there are no true patsies. If the Trojans decide not to show up one weekend, they could get clipped and knocked out of the title chase.

USC comments fall on deaf ears

October, 23, 2011
10/23/11
6:30
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Don't expect any verbal retaliation from Notre Dame players in wake of a 31-17 loss to USC that led to several Trojans players taking postgame shots at the Irish.

"If they do, they don't know me very well," Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.

USC took possession at the Irish 49 with 6:43 left in the game following a Nickell Robey interception. It ended the contest with 10 straight Curtis McNeal runs.

Down two scores, Notre Dame did not use any of its timeouts, prompting harsh words from its visitors.

"At the end there, when they didn't call those timeouts, they just quit," USC linebacker Chris Galippo said, according to ESPNLA.com's Pedro Moura. "And that's what Notre Dame football's about. They're not anything like USC."

"We're coming halfway across the country to play these guys," Galippo added. "They hyped it up. This was their Super Bowl. They had 26 or 27 official visits this weekend.

"This was it for them."

Trojans running back Marc Tyler had more toned-down comments about Notre Dame.

"That's what happens when you beat them down," Tyler said. "We wore them out. They didn't want to play no more.

"We out-physicaled them and beat them down."

Kelly did not agree that his team wore down defensively but would not engage in a battle of words.

"I don't know if that's the case," Kelly said. "To the victors go the spoils. I think we probably would have said the same thing last year. Again, how we evaluate our players, we didn't play the kind of football we wanted to play."
1. The run game has some work to do: Notre Dame's ground attack, which averaged nearly 200 yards per game entering Saturday, made believers out of everyone six games into the season. But the Irish managed just 41 yards on the ground Saturday against the Trojans, with a large majority of those coming on Jonas Gray's 25-yard touchdown run. Facing a big deficit early, Notre Dame ran the ball just 14 times and will need to re-find its touch as it moves forward through the season.

2. The run D isn't as good as we thought: What was believed to be a mediocre USC ground attack marched for 219 yards Saturday. Give plenty of credit to Marc Tyler for a gutsy performance after dislocating his left shoulder last week against Cal, as the senior rushed for 67 yards on 13 carries in a game many thought he wouldn't play in. The potential return to normalcy in facing a more traditional offense did nothing for the Irish defense, which had a tough time up the middle all night.

3. George Atkinson has made a huge difference: Atkinson's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown got Notre Dame on the board and gave it some much-needed momentum. He did the same thing in Week 3 against Michigan State, and the freshman is now one of only four FBS players to return a pair of kickoffs for scores this season. He's the second Irish freshman to ever return two in the same season as well, joining Rocket Ismail in 1988.

4. USC's providing all of the juice in this rivalry at the moment: Lane Kiffin repeated his Super Bowl line in his postgame news conference, along with several other digs he sneaked in. And just take a look at some of the Trojans' players quotes following their 31-17 win Saturday night. Towels, night games and music can only go so far. Competitive games and bad blood are typically the marks of great rivalries. USC players are certainly providing part of that formula at the moment.

End of first: USC 14, Irish 0

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
8:17
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — That was quick, no?

USC has jumped out to an early 14-0 lead at the end of one, and it looks like it could be a long night for the Irish if they don't figure things out fast.

The Trojans marched 66 yards on 13 plays on their first drive, using 11 rushes to chew up 7:39 of clock time. They then went 62 yards on six plays — four passes — to take a two-score lead.

Matt Barkley is 6-for-6 with 52 yards and two touchdown passes, and a banged-up Marc Tyler has rushed for 54 yards on eight carries so far.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, went three-and-out on its first two drives and will try to avoid a third three-and-out when the second quarter gets underway, as the Irish face third-and-5 when play resumes.

This is obviously not the kind of start the Irish were hoping for after a bye week and plenty of buildup, and they will need to act fast on both sides of the ball to keep this one from getting out of hand early.

Brian Kelly radio show recap

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
8:07
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It turns out USC running back Marc Tyler will travel after all.

Not that it changed Notre Dame's preparation one way or another.

"We don't change because of a guy who might be probable or he's questionable," Brian Kelly said during his weekly radio show at Legends of Notre Dame. "I think at quarterback, if there's really two different quarterbacks, you may have an additional gameplan for another quarterback. But for those guys that are playing those other positions, we just assume they're playing. We don't listen to what people are saying about who's in or who's out."

Tyler dislocated his left shoulder a week ago against Cal and has started the Trojans' last five games, though junior Curtis McNeal is still expected to start Saturday.

Tyler has carried the ball 83 times for 368 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.

Meanwhile, Ethan Johnson's status looks murkier despite being cleared to play.

The defensive end sprained his right ankle nearly three weeks ago at Purdue. Kelly said the Irish's depth on the defensive line this season allows him to be more cautious with Johnson.

"He's getting better," Kelly said. "I don't think he's at a level where he can play 50, 60 plays. I expect him, if our coaches feel like he can help us you may see him out there."

What to Watch: Week 8 vs. USC

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
10:30
AM ET
Here's what to keep an eye on this weekend as the Irish host the Trojans:
  • USC throwing early: Matt Barkley will make up for missing last year's game by throwing the ball a lot in the early going. With the Trojans' talented receiving corps and question marks in the backfield, which may be without Marc Tyler, look for USC to try to take the crowd out of the game with a big play.
  • Punt return success: Well, it can't be any worse, right? Michael Floyd will likely get a chance to return punts for the first time, and he certainly has the athleticism and big-play capability the Irish have been missing back there. I wouldn't expect him to take any to the house just yet, but a few solid returns to better position the offense is a reasonable expectation.
  • Let there be light: Brighter helmets, a later start and a rivalry that is finally two-sided should contribute to an atmosphere that Notre Dame Stadium hasn't seen in years. Let's hope for everyone's sake that it is a safe one, too, so that night games can possibly become annual affairs.

Irish Lunch Links

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
12:00
PM ET

Irish Lunch Links

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
12:00
PM ET
Rest in peace, Dan Wheldon. So, so sad.

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